COP27 climate talks: What happens if nothing happens?

Almost every COP runs long, blowing past official endpoints into the weekend. This one is no exception.

As the country pavilions were packed up and the crowds thinned out across the grounds here on Friday, the official end of the talks, the word “deadlock” was thrown around like candy. The 6 p.m. official closing came and went with no final agreement — fulfilling what is apparently the irrepressible destiny of all COPs from now until forever and sending negotiations into the weekend.

  • Option 1: Create a loss and damage fund here in Egypt before the weekend is out
  • Option 2: Push to COP28, scheduled for a year from now in Dubai, to create the fund — but definitely create it then
  • Option 3: Push to COP28 in Dubai, but without any firm promise for one dedicated fund, instead working toward “new and enhanced funding arrangements” for loss and damage

Most countries of the world — the G-77, the Alliance of Small Island States and other groups — want option 1. They feel that the idea of loss and damage has been ignored for far too long and that pushing another year is unacceptable.

“If it ends without agreeing on a loss and damage fund, it will be a resounding moral failure,” said Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the head of Greenpeace’s delegation here, on Friday afternoon. “That failure will be laid at the feet of blocking countries.”

Though negotiations continue, it seemed on Friday like those blocking countries, which include the U.S., prefer option 3. Meanwhile, the European Union, which negotiates as a bloc, offered up a bargain: create the fund this week, but in return require that all countries begin lowering emissions by 2025. This is likely a non-starter for some very big emitters — China, India — that have agreed to peak emissions later than that and would require some remarkably drastic action to turn things around in barely two short years.

Muddy fossil fuel language

Some seemingly minor wording changes in the draft compared with last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact have some observers decrying what appears to be backsliding on fossil fuels. As I wrote about earlier in the COP, some countries want to update the “phasedown of unabated coal” of last year to language on the need to rid the world of all fossil fuel use, but the draft text so far does no such thing.

What happens if nothing happens?

Again, almost every COP runs long, blowing past official endpoints into the weekend, and this one will be no exception. But there is a possibility, however remote, that the parties simply cannot agree on the issues up for debate. This has in fact happened once before, in 2000.

This week, there has been some suggestion that the G-77 or the Alliance of Small Island States may be willing to simply walk away if the loss and damage fund is not created, but negotiators have tended to downplay the possibility.

The talks will end one way or another by Monday, when I’ll be back with a wrap-up — or a eulogy.

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